If you believe that the Miami Dolphins have lost touch with the next generation of football fans, Geno Smith is your poster boy.
Obviously, Smith loved football as a kid. He grew up to be a NFL quarterback.
Proximity wasn’t an issue. He literally lived “five minutes away” from Sun Life Stadium.
But when Smith was asked this week if he was a Dolphins die-hard in his formative years, he responded succinctly, “No, I was not.”
He won’t be rooting for the Dolphins this Sunday, either. He’ll be actively trying to beat them.
Smith, the first-year quarterback for the Jets, will welcome his hometown team to his new town, New York, in a game with rich playoff implications.
Dolphins are Jets (both 5-6) are part of a six-way tie for the AFC’s sixth and final playoff spot. Though Sunday’s game is not technically an elimination game, it’s awfully close.
The fact that the Jets are even in shouting distance of the playoffs is a testament to their defense, because Smith, at least in recent weeks, has done little to help their cause.
An argument could be made that he’s the worst starting quarterback in football through 12 weeks. Of the league’s 34 qualifying quarterbacks, Smith has the lowest passer rating (62.1) and the most interceptions (18).
“Up and down,” Smith responded Wednesday, when asked to describe his season. “As far as my personal play has been, it’s not quite what I expected or where I think I could have played.
“I think I can play a lot better.”
Many of his struggles, Smith said, are a result of inexperience. “Trial by fire” is how he described his young NFL story. But the Jets probably couldn’t pull Smith, even if they wanted to.
When Mark Sanchez was lost for the season during training camp, it elevated Smith – who the year prior was an early Heisman Trophy candidate at West Virginia – into the starting role.
The Jets have since signed veteran David Garrard, but Jets coach Rex Ryan has shown no inclination to make a change.
“Sometimes you’ll want to sit a guy so he can see things maybe from a different perspective,” Ryan said. “But, the best way to learn is actually get out there and do it and face it and come through it and I think that’s probably the best way to learn.”
That’s the way he became a star at Miramar High nearly a decade ago. He played as a freshman for coach Damon Cogdell, and over the next four years, helped turn Miramar into a top program.
Cogdell knew he had something special since nearly the first time Smith took the field.
“Just his poise,” Cogdell said. “He’s got a very natural throw and release. His pocket presence [was great].”
By the time he was a senior, Smith was a blue-chip recruit. He was named the state’s 6A Player of the Year and a Parade All-American after leading Miramar to the state semifinals.
The four-star recruit had his pick of scholarship offers, but ultimately decided on West Virginia, Cogdell’s alma mater. Four years later, the Jets made him their second-round pick and potential quarterback of the future.
“It’s different than playing in Morgantown [W. Va.],” Cogdell said of the Big Apple. “It’s a different beast you have there.”
Cogdell believes Smith has the personality to succeed there – and one reason is “his demeanor. He doesn’t go out in the club, doesn’t party. In that city, you have to be a humble guy.”
Added Smith: “I’ve always gone about things the same way, regardless when I was receiving those high praises and accolades from my play, then we lost a few games and that kind of faded away. I never changed.
“It’s taught me that no matter what, you just have to remain yourself, continue to be yourself and just stick to what got you here. That’s how I work and that’s something that I try [to] establish every single day.”